Chasm between GRP and digital metrics highlights need for cross-screen standards

video-mobile-ss-1920At Google’s NewFronts presentation in May, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki declared that the video site captures more attention from 18- to 49-year-olds on mobile alone than does any single cable network or broadcaster overall.

She also highlighted an announcement from media agency Magna Global on moving $250 million from TV to Google video. That is some heady talk, and it’s the kind of talk that many publishers and agencies have been using for years to entice advertisers into spending more on digital.

To any advertiser focused on cross-channel or audience-based media planning and analysis (which should be nearly all of you), these kinds of statements leave a lot to be desired. Nielsen has predicted that TV will be merged completely with digital by 2020, but that seems very ambitious when you look at any media structure at a large or even mid-sized brand.

Going beyond just “digital” and “TV,” it becomes clear that there is a different way to plan and buy the audience on every single channel and sub-channel, including social media, mobile, display, VOD (video on demand), OTT (over the top) and so on.

Cross-screen metrics matter

The measurements Wojcicki is using to measure audience on YouTube are probably from Google Analytics, and that’s a problem, since advertisers currently compare audience numbers using a Nielsen GRP (gross rating point) system.

Neither digital impression metrics nor GRPs provide the flexibility that media planners need to approach media buying across channels objectively. For that, advertisers need to push publishers to use data standards that work across screens.

There are many reasons to care about metrics for audience size and campaign activity that can work for every major media channel. Not only is spending on digital media set to surpass TV spending in the US this year, but coordinated cross-channel advertising works, and marketers would do more of it if it were easier to plan and measure its size and scale.

A recent ARF study proposed that advertisers should be spending $31 billion more than they are now, but are hampered by an inability to plan and buy effectively across channels to make this extra spend effective.

Getting to a better place is not easy. While the GRP has ruled TV for decades, it’s not as flexible or granular as digital metrics, specifically an impression or an individual cookie. It’s possible that if we ditch the GRP in favor of (a standard measure of) impressions — or just cut to the chase and measure actual audiences — media buyers will be speaking the same language.

At the very least, it behooves advertisers to request standards that work across as much of the ecosystem as possible. This would mean dropping the Google Analytics data or the Facebook engagement numbers in favor of an industry standard.

Some advertisers like P&G have already been moving to an “audience-first” media-buying approach, taking the situation into their own hands. They use a data management platform to empower media buyers to coordinate media buys for one audience across platforms more easily. They push this approach on their publisher partners rather than trying to work around the publisher’s version of the truth.

There are still logistical problems with this, not the least of which is that most of linear TV is not addressable. So while this approach is promising for video today, most of their TV media budget sits outside of this process.

We need to work together

One can imagine that if advertisers and publishers work together to define common audience data standards, TV could be brought into the fold much more quickly and easily, and the entire market could start moving in the same direction.

Most importantly, advertisers need to bring their media buying organization together internally and with their agency to discuss standard metrics now, not later. Brands often have different agencies, each operating separately, across channels. Each team has grown up measuring the size of their audience in their own language and with their own metrics, which allows for too many versions of the truth.

YouTube’s Wojcicki is used to talking to digital media buyers, where Google Analytics is one of many different (and acceptable) audience measurements. As the land grab for advanced TV heats up, brands that force coordination and cooperation between their teams will fare better than those that ignore the issue or worse, allow individual companies to continue to innovate in different directions.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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